¶ Now the Spirit expressly says…
First Timothy 4:1
The apostle Paul’s journey with Christ commenced on the road to Damascus. It was a dramatic, miraculous moment that led to him being knocked off his horse, being blinded for days by a supernatural light emanating from Christ with whom he had an amazing conversation about his destiny. Paul’s conversion to Christianity was profoundly supernatural, but so was the rest of his journey with Christ. While many believers can also claim to have had a dramatic and supernatural conversion to Christ resulting in much Holy Spirit activity in the early days of their conversion, sadly, not many could also claim that decades later these supernatural activities by the Holy Spirit have increased both in their frequency and intensity, as they did with the apostle Paul. Paul’s deepening charismatic experience throughout his life becomes a challenge to those of us who think that “being ‘on-fire’ for God” is only a new-Christian experience. Here’s why Paul’s spiritual journey should be a challenge for each of us. Let me explain.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit!
PAUL’S PENTECOSTAL ORIGINS
Paul grew up as a devout Jew. He was schooled by Israel’s leading teacher, Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He belonged to the ultra-strict sect of the Pharisees. Soon after Christianity was birthed, he personally felt responsible to violently wipe it out (Acts 8:3). His view of the world was shaped by what the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament, the Law) and the Tanakh (the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets – note, Luke 22:44) taught. But then came his journey to Damascus. It was on that road that he met the Christ, the Jewish Messiah, the Hope of Israel. Three days after this dramatic appearing of Christ to Paul, a courageous disciple of Jesus, Ananias, was sent by the Lord to this infamous persecutor of the Church…
And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. ¶ Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;
The Lord Jesus sent Ananias to Saul (whose Romans name was Paul) to (i) pray for his healing from blindness; (ii) pray for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit; and (iii) baptise him in water. Interestingly, we have immediate evidence of Paul being healed (i) and Paul being water baptised (iii). But was Paul “filled with the Holy Spirit” after Ananias prayed for him? And, what did being filled with the Holy Spirit mean to the first generations of Christians? We don’t have to wonder for very long. We read in Acts 2 that when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first believers there was an immediate and dramatic effect upon them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
But was this Paul’s experience if he was filled with the Spirit after Ananias prayed for him? The evidence is clear that it was.
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.
First Corinthians 14:18
If we had the time we would also survey Paul’s epistles where he describes his experiences with the Holy Spirit including several visions (2Cor. 12:1), direct revelations from the Lord (Gal. 1:12; 2:2) a trip to heaven (2Cor. 12:2), many healings and miracles (Acts 19:6). For me, the increasing depth of the apostle Paul’s Pentecostal experiences is borne out in his epistles, especially in Romans 8 which is saturated with evidence of his intimacy with the Holy Spirit. But as I consider his last two epistles to Timothy, it is his statement in First Timothy 4:1 which reveals his increasing closeness with the Holy Spirit. He states the Spirit expressly says – as if he is reciting a conversation he has recently had with a very familiar friend. This is all the more remarkable because of the adverse circumstances that Paul was enduring at the time he wrote this. Within a matter of months after his Roman imprisonment he would be executed. This is why I find Paul one of the highest examples of a Spirit-filled servant of God. His intimacy with the Holy Spirit did not exempt him from doubts, trials, or even infirmities. But throughout his life he continued to seek God and the fullness of the fellowship with Holy Spirit. And so should we.
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